December 18, 2015

Winner of the 2015 Stephen Spender Prize withdraws entry


Image via the Stephen Spender Prize website

Image via the Stephen Spender Prize website

There’s trouble at the Stephen Spender Prize—this year’s winner, Allen Prowle, has withdrawn his entry and returned his prize money after being accused of plagiarism.

The Stephen Spender Prize rewards poetry in translation. Prowle was awarded the prize for his translation of “Johnson Brothers Ltd” by the Dutch poet Rutger Kopland. Another of Prowle’s translations of the poet was also commended.

But, as Benedicte Page at The Bookseller reports, trouble arose when the blog Nederlandse Poëzie Encyclopedie ran a story accusing Prowle of “blatant plagiarism.” According to the site:

International research by poetry translators and specialists in plagiarism from the UK, Netherlands and Denmark shows that in actual fact these aren’t superb translations at all, but blatant plagiarism. Allen Prowle, the lauded ‘translator’ simply lifted five translations wrought by the late James Brockway and the living Willem Groenewegen from the internet, slightly adapted them and subsequently submitted them under his own name.

Allen Prowle has not commented on the accusations but has returned the prize money and withdrawn his entry. Speaking to The Bookseller, prize director Robina Pelham Burn did not confirm or deny the accusations, but she must have felt pretty sheepish:

All I can say is that Allen Prowle has withdrawn his entries and returned the prize money. You will see that the conditions of entry [for the prize] stipulate at item six that ‘each translation must be the original work of the entrant and not a copy or substantial copy of someone else’s translation; it must not have been previously published or broadcast.’

Somewhat more problematic: Prowle also won the prize in 2007.




Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.